Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan faction claims responsibility for a mass-casualty attack in Peshawar highlighting security lapses while government struggles with economic crisis

Key points

  • Event: On 30 January, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Peshawar killing at least 100 people and injuring 150 others. A faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed the attack while the TTP denied responsibility
  • Significance: The attack highlights an intensification of TTP's activities, security lapses, and failure of the government's policy and approach to dealing with the militants
  • Outlook: TTP will very likely continue targeting security forces to destabilise the country. The security situation will remain fragile because of limited resources, with the government facing declining forex reserves and rising inflation


    On 30 January, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the Police Lines area, a high-security zone in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing at least 100 people and injuring 150 others, mostly policemen, several local and international media reported. The attack was claimed by a commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group, which later denied responsibility claiming that attacking mosques violated the group's laws.

    However, a faction of the TTP called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed the attack to avenge the death of JuA's former chief Omar Khalid Khorasani who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2022. On 1 February 2023, Pakistani security forces arrested 17 suspects in relation to the investigation of the bombing. Presiding over the 255th Corps Commanders' Conference in Rawalpindi a day after the attack, the Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir, was quoted in a statement by the army, directing military leaders to focus on anti-terrorism operations by working with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.


    The attack is an intensification in the TTP's activities since it ended ceasefire negotiations with the government in November 2022. The group was negotiating talks initiated by the Imran Khan-led government in October 2021 seeking reconciliation, which ended in December 2021 until the Shehbaz Sharif-led government resumed the talks in May 2022. JuA is one of the deadliest factions of the TTP and likely attacked the mosque without the TTP's knowledge and approval. However, given the organisation of the TTP and the history of both groups, it is also likely that the TTP was aware of the attack and is denying involvement. Moreover, the attack fits into TTP's operational pattern of targeting security forces in the country.

    The TTP has broadened its activities to mainstream cities since ending the ceasefire by carrying out mass-casualty attacks while targeting police personnel and security outposts in mostly rural areas in 2022, according to Janes data. The group accelerated activities in December 2022 by attacking the Counter Terrorism Department compound in Bannu Cantonment, Lakki Marwat, seeking to free the TTP members in custody and holding several security officials hostage. However, the militants were killed in a security operation launched by the government after two days. The incident raised concerns about the security apparatus of the government despite killing the militants. The recent attack in Peshawar also highlights a significant security lapse given the location of the mosque in the Police Lines area, surrounded by high-profile government buildings, the high court, and the provincial assembly. The recent incident reiterates the unstable and fragile security situation in Pakistan.

    A view of the damage following a suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 31. The death toll has risen to 100, with police announcing the completion of an intense rescue operation. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

    The resurgence of the TTP highlights the failure of the government's security policies and the approach of appeasing the militants, allowing them to regroup and strengthen their presence. Even Gen Munir's directive about anti-terrorism operations appears to lack robustness as such measures could have been implemented since November 2022 when the TTP ended the ceasefire calling for countrywide attacks and intensified its activities by targeting the Counter Terrorism Department in December. The government followed an accommodative policy of engaging with the militants through the mediation of the Afghan Taliban, the ideological sibling of the TTP with similar aims. At least 100 TTP militants were released as a goodwill gesture by the Imran Khan-led government after ceasefire talks started. This approach appears to have given the militants time to regroup and embolden their presence.

    The government claimed to have fenced the majority of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2022 as a priority to enhance security under Pakistan's National Security Policy launched in January 2022. However, there is a lack of border management mechanism as the de facto Afghan Taliban government does not recognise Durand Line as a legitimate border rendering it a point of contention between the two countries. The porous border enabled the TTP to re-emerge in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province since 2021 with the Afghan Taliban in power and the absence of international security forces.

    Pakistan's worsening economic crisis and political turmoil provided an ideal situation for the TTP to resurge and intensify activities. The country's declining foreign exchange reserves and debt repayments have most likely left it with minimal resources to deal with the security threat. The chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, highlighted the lack of funds from the federal government for the province resulting in the police remaining ill-equipped to deal with militants. The timing of the attack is also significant as it occurred ahead of the visit of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation for the discussion on the disbursement of loans, which the government is seeking to resolve its economic crisis.


    In this context, Janes assesses that the TTP will very likely continue its operational pattern of targeting security forces across the country with the threat of mass-casualty attacks. The group followed up with an attack on a police station in the Mianwali area in Punjab province on 1 February and another attack on the Police Lines area in Quetta in Balochistan province on 5 February. The continued attacks highlight the TTP's resolve to destabilise the country with almost no chance of engaging with the government, which will not cede to the TTP's demands including reversing the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The security situation will remain fragile at least for the medium term as the security personnel, who are prime targets, remain ill-equipped to fight the militants. Moreover, security forces are unlikely to get the required financial resources to fight the militants as the government awaits IMF's assistance to save itself from depleting its forex reserves and avoiding a default on debt repayment.

    (Note: Items from news/wire services are abstracted from the originals and are not verbatim)


    Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan faction claims responsibility for a mass-casualty attack in Peshawar highl...

    Request Consultation

    Request a free consultation to discover how Janes can provide you with assured, interconnected open-source intelligence.